Delayed diagnosis of torn quadriceps

The scene

A patient brought a claim against an MDU GP member alleging failure to assess and refer her for an injury to her thigh, leading in turn to a delayed diagnosis of a partial tear of her right quadriceps.

The patient injured her leg playing badminton in early January 2010, but didn't seek medical advice straight away and only saw her GP a few weeks later, in February. The notes from this consultation indicated that a 'step' could be felt in the right quadriceps, and the patient was referred for physiotherapy.

Over the next year and a half, the patient was seen at her local A&E and orthopaedic departments, as well as going back to her local practice to see the GP member and other clinicians, all on unrelated matters. It wasn't until November 2011, almost two years after the initial consultation, that the patient returned to see the GP member about her right quadriceps, which was causing her discomfort. The GP member referred the patient to the local trauma and orthopaedics department, after which the partial tear was diagnosed and the patient was treated with conservative management.

The claim

The patient instructed solicitors and a letter of claim was sent to the member in August 2013. It was alleged that during the initial consultation in February 2010, the member failed to perform an adequate assessment and refer the patient for further investigation. It was alleged that as a result, the patient's injury went untreated for 21 months and caused her to experience recurring pain in her leg.

It was alleged that as a result, the patient's injury went untreated for 21 months and caused her to experience recurring pain in her leg.

The outcome

The MDU obtained independent expert evidence from a GP, who concluded that the assessment performed was adequate and that it was reasonable for the GP member to refer the patient for physiotherapy. Expert evidence was also obtained from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, who concluded that the patient would have received the same treatment had she been referred earlier.

A letter of response denying liability was served on the patient's solicitors in January 2014 – some four years after the patient's initial injury and consultation – after which the claim was discontinued.


On the face of it this may seem a relatively straightforward case, with supportive expert evidence in defence of the claim and a positive result for the member involved. But the timescales involved demonstrate that a claim can often take a while to come to light.

In this instance the letter of claim was received three and a half years after the consultation where it was alleged the GP had failed to assess and refer the patient, in our experience this isn't a long time in the wider scheme of things. Although limitation periods require a claim to be brought within three years of the incident or knowledge of the harm caused, the MDU files contain many examples of claims being brought decades after the original event.

This page was correct at publication on 14/03/2017. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.


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